Thursday, September 13, 2012

Free Range Parenting?

Enjoyed a birthday lunch with my childhood friend Erin.  It was the first time in a decade that we carved out time during the day without kids!

I was chatting with a girlfriend today and she brought up the topic of play dates.

She said, "Honestly, I don't know when people find time for play dates."

I agreed.  School nights are tricky between the homework and the activities.  Weekends can be just as dicey with games and other commitments.  Time for play dates?  Summer, maybe?

As I processed our conversation, I grew a little sad.  Aren't play dates a staple of childhood?  Shouldn't a schedule have enough wiggle room to allow kids to play with kids and to just be kids?

It got me thinking about a morning news segment I watched on free range parenting, a parenting style that discourages over-scheduled parenting and promotes more play (specifically unsupervised play).  Perhaps the author had a point.

Aiming to be more free range and less helicopter, I shuffled the boys outside (in between homework and scouts).  They raced around our play set and mingled with the neighbor girls.  They seemed happy, so I tackled the dinner dishes and sorted laundry.  Kids are suppose to be creative, happy and self-sufficient, says the free range advocate, so I purposely decided to leave the boys unsupervised in the yard.  After a little while, I grew anxious.  It was so quiet.  What exactly were they doing?  

Within minutes, Caleb came in and announced Cooper located the gas can in the garage.  I raced outside to reprimand Cooper.  That's when I found Collin clutching some nails.  Two boys were completely covered in mud.  Toys were littered out on the yard and in the garage.

I scanned the scene and thought about a quote from the free range parenting website, "We just also happen to believe that kids today are smarter and safer than society gives them credit for." 

Hmmm.  Maybe we're not quite there.

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